15-04-16

VMware VCAP6-DTM Design – Exam Experience

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I just got back from sitting the beta of the VCAP6-DTM Design exam, so I thought I would give a bit of feedback for anyone thinking of doing it any point in the future. Obviously the caveat to this post is that the exam today was a beta (so still very much in development) and also that it’s still under NDA, so no real specifics, I’m afraid.

The exam itself was 38 questions over 4 hours, although I completed it with about an hour to spare. I got the invite a couple of weeks ago and thought “why not?”. It’s only eighty quid, and you don’t often get the chance to sit a VCAP for that low fee.

The design exam takes the form of drag and drop and the design canvas questions. I kind of felt under no real pressure to deliver on this exam – I’m not currently doing much in the way of the VMware stack, so it was almost a bit of fun. I remember sitting the VCAP5-DTD (as was) and feeling a lot more time pressured and knowledge pressured, but I reckoned it up and it was over three years ago now! Time flies, and I’m certainly much more experienced, not just as an architect but also with View.

I think in the released exam, you only get 6 design canvas questions, but in today’s beta I got a lot more than that! I can’t recall exactly how many, but there were at least a dozen, I’d say. I’m not sure if that was just a data gathering exercise or if that is the way the exam will go, but best to know your reference architectures if you’re planning to sit this exam later in the year.

The exam also seemed to be much more in tune with the way the VCDX is done, in respect of assumptions, constraints and risks and also requirements. You also need to understand the differences between logical, conceptual and physical designs and also functional and non-functional requirements. I think this exam will prepare you much better for a VCDX crack, I can’t honestly remember if the original VCAP5-DTD ran along those lines.

In terms of tech, a good chunk of the exam is made up of existing View technologies, so understand all the core components well:-

  • Connection Servers
  • Security Servers
  • Desktop Pools
  • Full and Linked Clone Desktops
  • 3D Graphics
  • ThinApp
  • RDSH (quite a lot of content on that)
  • View Pods
  • Pod and Block Architecture
  • Workspace

I’ll be honest and state right now I’ve never touched AppVolumes or Mirage, less seen it in the field. I spent a chunk of time over the last couple of days looking at some of the linked documentation from the exam blueprint, such as reference architectures, use cases and also the product documentation.

As it’s a design exam, it takes an architectural approach so you don’t need to know which vdmadmin command to run to perform a given task, for example. What you do need to know is what components do what, how they link with each other and what he dependencies are. It’s a lot more in depth than a VCP, but if you have spent any time in the field doing a requirements analysis and then a subsequent design and delivery, you should be fine.

I didn’t take a lot of care with my answers in the sense that I didn’t really agonise over them. I did check them before I moved on, but as I said, I felt no pressure and I really just went with my gut instinct. In most cases, that’s usually the right way.

In terms of non-View components, I’d say you need to know and understand the high level architectures of AppVolumes and Mirage. I can’t recall any questions on the Immidio product, so maybe that didn’t make the cut or maybe my question pool just didn’t contain any. Latterly though, I did get some questions that referred to the “traditional” Persona Management. Wouldn’t hurt to have a basic understanding of Immidio though (or whatever it’s called these days).

There are a few questions where you need to count your fingers – there is no access in the exam to a calculator, which is a massive pain in the arse. Microsoft exams always have it, not sure why VMware seem intent on exam candidates getting their fingers and toes out. Let’s be honest, you wouldn’t do that in the field, would you? I did comment back that a calc would be very handy for someone like me who is incredibly lazy when it comes to arithmetic!

So to sum up, not massively different from the VCAP5-DTD I remember, with core View still very heavily tested. As I mentioned previously, make sure you have a good working knowledge of AppVolumes and Mirage in terms of the architecture and what the component roles are. Probably wouldn’t do any harm to understand and remember what ports are used in which scenarios, either. Configuration maximums too – you’ll need to know how many users a given component will support when designing a solution for a specific number of users.

I won’t get the results now until 30th June or so (that’s what the beta exam page says, anyway), so we’ll see. Do I think I’ve passed? Who knows. I’ve given up predicting things like that after I did the VCP-CMA beta thinking I’d done well, only to crash and burn. It has no massive effect on me anyway, as I’m currently 100% focused on AWS and Azure, but it would be nice to top up my collection of VCAPs further. As always, any questions, hit me up on Twitter but just don’t ask for any exam question content specifics.

Links

04-06-15

North West England VMUG – Meeting Report

Yesterday was the summer get together of the North West England VMUG chapter at Rosylee in Manchester. A somewhat quirky venue, it offers an intimacy you don’t really get with other conference venues. We even had vRockstar Duncan Epping with us for the first time to cover off the latest and greatest in Virtual SAN. He seemed to like the venue too!

Although the event was planned as a vSphere 6.0 themed meeting, it seemed to err more towards the storage side of things. As well as event sponsors Pure Storage and Tegile, there were the usual sessions on “What’s New” and vNews. A new addition to the agenda was an “Ask the Experts” panel which seemed to work really well. Lots of questions about licencing! Anyway, without further ado..

VMware What’s  New – Ashley Davies

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Long time chapter contributor Ashley Davies took us through the usual start of what’s new in the VMware world:-

– IT is in transition, stage 3 after mainframe and client/server
– New type apps coming to market like Uber etc
– How to bridge the two worlds between mobile and client server?
– VMware working on Cloud Native applications (docker, containerisation etc.)
– Photon and Lightwave are the first steps on the container engine development track
– Lightwave is the SSO solution, SAML, Kerberos, LDAP, OAuth, scalable architecture, multi tenant
– Open sourced both items
– Increased scalability in vSphere 6, at least x2 on everything
– Windows vCenter now same scalability as the appliance, VCSA supports Postgres and external Oracle
– Long distance vMotion, up to 150ms latency – migrations, disaster avoidance, multi site load balancing
– Fault Tolerance now up to 4 vCPU, requires 10Gbps networking
– Instant Clone – rapid cloning, Horizon View integration coming
– Data Protection based on Avamar and included from Essentials Plus and above
– Content Library – store and sync VMs, ISOs, templates
– NVIDIA GRID vGPU integration
– Enterprise Plus customers get Integrated OpenStack for free, but support is a paid option

Tegile Systems – Aaron Bell

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We then had a session with Tegile, who are a storage startup with a presence in the UK.  Main points of the presentation were:-

– All Flash or Hybrid solution – Same O/S using IntelliFlash
– NAS and SAN protocols out of the box, block and file from the same system
– De dupe and compression (inline)
– Hybrid storage array for price per gig, all flash for performance
– Founded in 2010, launched Feb 2012
– 800+ mid-range enterprise customers
– 1900+ systems deployed
– Privately owned – Sandisk and Hitachi backed
– Best of VMworld 2012, Cisco, Citrix and VMware certified
– Partner with Microsoft, Oracle, Veeam and Zerto
– Citrix develop on Tegile, Apple develop iWorld on the platform
– Ferrari and McLaren
– 85% data reduction in VDI deployments, 10x performance improvement
– Boot and login storm mitigation
– Databases 33% data reduction
– Server virtualisation 50% data reduction, 5x 7 x performance improvement
– Hot data cached into top two layers of storage
– 5-10x less cooling
– 5-10x less power
– WAN efficient replication, just replicating new and changed blocks
– Set up ad hoc or automatic replication
– Web UI management
– REST API for automation, no Orchestrator plugin right now
– SCVMM support for Hyper-V (coming in next few weeks in new OS release)
– vCenter plugins available
– Call home alerts
– Opt in cloud analytics reports back twice daily and customer can access performance trends. Tipping point analysis not jusy yet
– VVol support on the way, September time. Native support, not an appliance
– IntelliCare Flash 5 guarantee

An interesting takeaway from the session was that the support/maintenance costs are flat across the five year term, making budgeting a whole lot easier. I’ve seen it previously where this figure can vary a great deal and really squeeze budgets. There is also an offer to replace the controllers in the array at the end of the five year term should you renew further past that. I didn’t note the full details, but I’d be happy to make any corrections where I’ve missed something off.

vRealize Operations 6.01- Matthew Steiner, VMware

Next up was Matthew Steiner with a session on what’s new with vRealize Operations Manager 6.01 (the product formerly known as vCenter Operations Manager). Although I’ve only had a quick play with it, it seems my assumption that it wouldn’t be a big change from 5.x was quite a common mistake. Even Matt admitted it took him a little time to get used to some of the differences.

Key points from the session:-

– vROPs 6 major change from 5.x series
– Don’t stand it up against a lab environment, can’t see the value. Needs to see “real world” examples
– Analytics, adapters, management packs and collections still the same
– Badges still the same (Health, Workload, Risk), numbers gone
– Dashboards and widgets still the same, super metrics
– Linux appliance or Windows
– Completely rewritten and re-architected from the ground up, 2 years development
– Single VM deployment, no longer Analytics and GUI VM
– Gemfire – in memory database
– Clustering – scale up, out, in, HA
– Scales to 64K VMs
– Use VCM to harden your hosts against hardening guidelines
– Improved reporting engine (major complaint of the 5.x product, apparently)
– Capacity modelling across all objects
– Capacity projects can forward plan resources needed for a deployment
– Action Framework – Symptoms, Recommendations, Action

 

VSANs and VVols – “Goodbye SAN Huggers” – Duncan Epping, VMware

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Next was the session from VCDX and all round vRockstar Duncan Epping. He took us through the current status of the Virtual SAN product, it’s capabilities and use cases. There were also some important notes from the field around ensuring the hardware you use is HCL certified and you don’t just cobble together any old junk and expect it to fly like an eagle. To the sea, presumably. (My words, not his. Well, Peter Frampton’s words. Well, you get the idea.)

– Disk I/O has to go through the through kernel anyway, so why not position Virtual SAN within the hypervisor?
– Enables workload awareness
– Storage policy based management (SPBM)
– PowerCLI, perl, python can be complex, policy driven via vCenter much easier, lower learning curve
– VVols provides a framework for third party vendors to use
– Policy based framework means engine knows best place to put VM based on features of VVol enabled storage (dedupe, compress, striped etc)
– Virtual SAN fully integrated with vSphere stack – DRS, HA, etc
– Brings data closer to compute
– Granular elastic scale out. More resource needed, add more Virtual SAN nodes
– Virtual SAN needs a minimum of three hosts, all three must contribute storage
– 10Gbps Ethernet preferred, dedicated VLAN for Virtual SAN traffic. 1Gbps works, but should you?
– Theoretical max of 9 PB per cluster based on current sizing
– Up to 90K IOPS per host, sub milli second latency
– Linear scaling across nodes, predictable performance gains as cluster scales out
– All flash or hybrid model with vSphere 6.0
– Zero data loss in the event of hardware failure – VM copies placed elsewhere in the cluster – If you build Virtual SAN node from HCL components, SKU list is big – Virtual SAN ready nodes from partners, pre-built and tested, single SKU
– EVO RAIL pre built hardware appliance, EVO RACK not yet available
– Always pick components from HCL, picking a good disk controller is key
– Dell FX 2 and IBM flex being certified
– Impact of any Virtual SAN changes shown in vSphere Web Client
– Virtual SAN is object based product. VM is an object and VMDK is a component
– Most customers using SAS drives
– 60 minute wait on failure before recopying component to another host
– Virtual SAN is maintenance mode aware
– Fault domains introduced in Virtual SAN 6.0 to make it rack aware
– Better performance on snapshot using Virsto technology
– Content based read cache (View Storage Accelerator) coming for server workloads
– Compression and dedupe on the way but issue is overhead on host in doing this
– Virtual SAN monitoring available in vCenter. VSAN observer? Management pack for vRealize Operations Manager on the way
– VDI is a good use case for Virtual SAN

Pure Storage – Adrian Clarke

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First up my sincere apologies to Pure Storage. I didn’t capture many notes about the company and the product as I had to take a phone call and missed the vast chunk of your session. If anyone wants to provide a brief summary or a link to the slide deck, I’d be happy to post it on this blog. As much as I got was the following:-

– All flash storage solution
– Gartner magic quadrant leader
– All Flash Array with consumer SSDs, always on encryption and dedupe from 2011
– FlashArray M is the new product. 6 watts per TB, reduced number of cables
– 100TB in 3U – Product designed and manufactured from the ground up, so Pure control not only the software but the hardware also which is unique with this type of solution

VMware Certification Roadmap – Community Session

Next up was me! I was asked by Steve and Nathan (VMUG leaders) to do a presentation last year, but due to having to take a contract at short notice I had to let them down and I hated doing it. I was asked back a second time yesterday and delivered a session on VMware certification and the roadmap for version 6 of products. I hadn’t presented for a couple of years, and although a little apprehensive at the start, within a couple of minutes I got into my stride and actually felt fine. I think it probably helped that it wasn’t a presentation on storage!

A quick straw poll at the start of the session was really interesting. I asked for shows of hands as to who had VCA, VCP and VCAP. VCA had a few hands, VCP had lots of hands and VCAP had no hands! I was very surprised at this, I was expecting at least a couple! It seemed Duncan and I were the only two in the room that I could see.

Key takeaways from the session:-

– VCP certification has been going since 2003, there are now more than 100,000 worldwide
– VCAP introduced in 2010
– VCDX introduced in 2010, around 200 worldwide (of which Duncan is 007!)
– Traditionally, VCP requires one exam to pass the certification, but this requires the ICM course to be sat first
– As you rise up the “Pyramid of Power”, the bar goes higher and there are fewer candidates
– Differentiate yourself in the market by achieving higher levels of certification, pimp your LinkedIn profile – you have a 10 second window of opportunity to impress people looking at your profile!
– Traditionally, VCAP track has multiple skills (Cloud, DCV, Desktop) and design or admin tracks, this being simplified to Implementation Expert (VCIX). Two exams, one certification. Multiple VCIX grants “Elite Implementer” status which sadly current multiple VCAP holders can’t have!
– VCDX requires a panel defence of a design document, can result in hundreds of hours of work and can be expensive to get (£1500+)
– Achieving VCAP status helped me feel less intimidated about working with vRockstars at top partners such as Xtravirt, helps validate your skills to others
– VCP-NV (network virtualisation) exam is half price until the end of June
– If you plan on sitting an exam or two at VMworld, don’t bite off more than you can chew and leave yourself exhausted. VCAP exams are 3 hours plus

To finish off we had some vNews from Ashley Davies and a new addition to the agenda, “Ask the Experts” panel. There was a lot of good interaction between the panel and the audience, a few questions on licencing but a lot on Virtual SAN. Thanks to the VMware guys for doing this, and oiling them with a beer during the session obviously helped!

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The next meeting is planned for Wednesday 9th September back at Rosylee, keep an eye on the chapter Twitter feed for further information.